Currently Browsing: Civil Liberties
Mar 21, 2013
SayUncle seems to be warming up to Rand Paul, but isn’t happy about Rand Paul going against abortion rights. I am generally in Uncle’s camp on this particular issue, but I understand why the issue is so contentious, and why people are passionate about it. I don’t pretend to have any real moral insights into where life begins, and therefore where the rights of the mother need to yield. I think philosophically, it’s an issue that is far more difficult than many people who have strong opinions on it imagine it to be. At the end of the day, what has made me fall on the abortion rights side of the spectrum is that I can’t abide by the fact that enforcing an abortion ban would entail roughly the same kind of tactics we’re seeing right now with SAFE. This may not be a popular notion in today’s political climate, but I tend to think if you’re going to make certain behaviors serious crimes, they should generally be behaviors that pretty much everyone who isn’t criminally anti-social can agree ought to be crimes.
It’s with that I want to start in on a comment, and follow-up, that appeared yesterday by Peter Hamm, who used to work in the gun control issue, but has since moved on. Peter has always been a strong adversary, and a decent person, so I think his point is worth addressing in a post:
So, to clarify, gang, when you say enforce the laws on the books, you mean the laws on the books that pass muster with a broad cross-section of then gun rights community.
I respect you, and try not to ever treat you disrespectfully, but do we all get to choose the laws that we find acceptable, and disregard the rest? I for one am aware of many laws, such as the federal income tax laws, that I would rather opt out of, but have always thought that doing so wasn’t an option.
Consider this, for example. If one of these town officials says he won’t enforce a new gun law, you applaud him. What would you have thought if the National Park Service had said it wouldn’t allow concealed, despite the rider on the credit card reform bill?
We’re Americans. If we don’t like a law we’re free to fight for its repeal. We’re not free to disregard it. That gets liens put on your house, social services putting your kids in protective custody, stuff like that.
I think this can be a good starting point for a discussion on both the left and the right to develop a bit of understanding. That’s why this post started with the topic of abortion, because it is another very contentious moral and social issue that we argue very passionately about.
If abortion were generally made illegal, or very close to illegal in a state, would folks on who are passionate about abortion rights believe that women who smuggled abortion pills into the state ought to be subject to felony penalties and thrown in jail? Should they just obey the law, and stick to lobbying for repeal? What if the law makes traveling out of state for an abortion a felony? Is the woman who drives a friend worth throwing in prison for 10 years? If the state did an ad campaign targeting women’s magazines and television, telling other women to report if a friend or neighbor had an illegal abortion, with rewards offered for arrests, would you be outraged? What about doctors who refuse to obey the laws and decide carrying out safe abortions in medically sound conditions is better than women resorting to back alley abortionists and coat hangers? What about a woman who gets a botched abortion, gets a bad infection, and seeks legitimate medical treatment? Should she face a felony rap, and be forced to choose between sterility, and possibly death, or a lengthy prison sentence?
For those who are against abortion, this is what enforcement would mean. Sound familiar? Even if we disagree with each other’s moral compass on life’s starting point, you’re still dealing with fundamental issues of personhood, and those are always the kinds of topics we’re going to have the worst arguments over in America. Slavery was an issue of personhood, and we fought a bloody civil war over that.
Likewise, the gun rights debate is actually not about guns, but is rather a personhood debate, derived from the fairly common and historically pervasive American notion that the right to keep and bear arms is a fundamental right of citizenship and personhood. The right to defend one’s home, one’s life, and one’s liberty is deeply rooted in our sense of personal autonomy, self-reliance, and in our relationship with those who govern us, or who would claim to govern us. It is just as much about a right to our own corporal integrity and dignity as it is to many who support abortion rights.
Mar 15, 2013
I think it’s important to learn from a cultural shift that’s happening on an issue that’s both personal and political. It’s also one that has the potential to deeply divide a political party with one side believing that accepting a perceived “new” right will undermine everything they hold dear about their political ideology while others in the party are more open-minded to the change and even support it. One might assume that I’m talking about the issues of personal firearms ownership & self-defense and how they are viewed by Democrats outside of urban centers versus those in entrenched liberal areas. Actually, I think the issue I’m going to highlight is how the Democrats could view the cultural shifts on gun ownership through lessons the GOP should be learning on the issue of same-sex marriage.
If you follow any DC-based conservatives on Twitter at all, you’ve heard of CPAC. It has long been considered an event for conservatives to gather and talk about issues that make them identify as conservatives. For a few years, under the leadership of now-NRA president David Keene, CPAC allowed GOProud–a group of gay conservatives–to be co-sponsors and attend the event. After Keene left the helm of the group that puts on CPAC, they suddenly banned GOProud.
This year was no different in terms of a formal ban on the group, but another co-sponsoring organization was given the right to use a room to host their own panel. CEI opted to do an entire panel called “A Rainbow on the Right.” Photos show that the room was absolutely packed to the gills. Most of the folks in that photo are clearly young. They are the future of the movement. Meanwhile, CPAC officially hosted a panel with the National Organization for Marriage shortly before the Rainbow panel. The same link above compares the photos. That room was nearly empty. It featured rows and rows of empty seats.
Then, today, Senator Rob Portman officially came out in support of same-sex marriage. He notes that by supporting state decisions on marriage, and by ensuring that religious freedom is respected even while civil marriage rights are expanded, it’s an inherently conservative position on the side of limited government and individual freedom. It’s no secret here that both Sebastian and I support government recognition of same-sex marriages, so we both consider this really great news.
As I looked at the this debate this morning with the visible GOProud support, the lack of interest in the traditional marriage panel, and the op-ed that is likely sending many older folks on the right into a tizzy, I couldn’t help but see parallels in the left’s desperation to cling to gun control. For example, I was surfing the hashtags for the Pennsylvania Progressive Summit recently when I learned they were having a panel on gun control. During the panel and immediately after, the only tweets I saw at all from that panel all came from the official Summit account. Reading the tweets from actual activists during the session time period and immediately following, they were all focused on the student debt and right to work panels. In other words, they weren’t even in the room. There was not a single tweet during or immediately following the panel on gun control that came from a real activist even though there was an entire panel dedicated to the topic. That shows me that they have the same kind of enthusiasm gap on their side for the gun issue. And, like the gay marriage issue dividing some folks on the GOP side of the debate, the embrace of extreme gun control by party leaders from deep blue urban areas has cost members of their party from areas outside of those enclaves votes that cost elections. When Democratic Representative Dan Boren retired from Congress, he told the press that he didn’t feel the national party scene would allow him to continue to be “a local Democrat,…an Oklahoma Democrat.”
At some point, the “traditional” sides of each of these issues within each movement will need to accept the inevitable. Whether it’s gay rights or gun rights, many people are taking the attitude that if the decisions of another aren’t hurting them, they don’t feel the need to control it.
Mar 14, 2013
Apparently, one New York lawmaker is horrified that 11-year-olds might possibly see guns safely displayed and purchased by law-abiding citizens. So she wants to ban that.
She obviously believes that gun owners with kids cannot be trusted since they might possibly pass on that tradition of firearms ownership. To respond to this “threat” that gun ownership may still happen in the next generation, she’s trying to make introducing your children to safe and lawful use of firearms a crime one step at a time.
Mar 8, 2013
Joe explains his philosophy in regards to the use of the Civil Rights Acts to go after gun controllers. The criminal elements of the Civil Rights Acts, to my knowledge, have rarely been used in the Second Amendment context (Cruikshank is the only case I can think of). I agree that they generally should be, and in general, I don’t think the criminal aspects of the Civil Rights Acts are prosecuted often enough generally, especially against government agents. The usual remedy under those acts are civil in nature rather than criminal.
But I do have a very serious concern with targeting advocacy. Advocacy, even for very controversial and unconstitutional ideas, is generally protected by the First Amendment. Advocating a repeal of the 13th Amendment, for instance, would be advocating against civil rights, and would be detestable, but it’s also protected speech. It shouldn’t be a violation of the Civil Rights Acts to advocate for a law, even if that law is arguably or clearly unconstitutional. To limit the ability to advocate on certain topics to carve out an exception to the First Amendment, which I don’t find acceptable.
Now, that’s not to say there’s no use for the Civil Rights Acts in the gun context. Ray Nagin and his police chief should be reachable under the acts. So should every officer that participated in the post-Katrina confiscations. You can advocate for a law to do X, even if X is unconstitutional, but you can’t actually deprive someone of civil rights, or if you’re a Mayor or Police Chief, order someone’s civil rights be violated. That’s reachable under both the civil and criminal provisions of the Civil Rights Acts.
Likewise, advocacy doesn’t rise to the level of a conspiracy. Generally for a conspiracy to be a conspiracy legally, at least one person in the conspiracy has to take some act to move the conspiracy forward. So, for instance, if hypothetically Nagin and his police chief were to be prosecuted, but they found out that Mayor Bloomberg (just as a hypothetical) was involved in the planning, even if Bloomberg never participated in the confiscation, and did not issue any orders to affect it, he would still be reachable under conspiracy to deprive people of their civil rights.
On the issue of passing laws, we inherited the concept of parliamentary or legislative immunity from common law. There’s a lot of good reasons for its existence, but I’ve also heard good arguments that the various forms of sovereign immunity we imported from English law are wholly unsuitable for a free Republic such as ours. I’d be open to notions that legislators perhaps shouldn’t be immune if the laws they vote for later turn out to be held unconstitutional, but my concern would be that while perhaps legislators would be reluctant to pass laws that touched civil liberties, an unintended consequence likely would be the courts approaching review of legislative enactments with even more deference than they currently do, which is far too much in my opinion.
So I would like to see the Civil Rights Acts used more, both the civil and criminal aspects, but I think we have to be careful about carving out exceptions to the First Amendment, and criminalizing mere advocacy.
Feb 5, 2013
This looks like a crock, and I hope these people win their case:
In this case, the USDA imposed on the Hornes a “marketing order” demanding that they turn over 47% of their crop without compensation. The order—a much-criticized New Deal relic—forces raisin “handlers” to reserve a certain percentage of their crop “for the account” of the government-backed Raisin Administrative Committee, enabling the government to control the supply and price of raisins on the market. The RAC then either sells the raisins or simply gives them away to noncompetitive markets—such as federal agencies, charities, and foreign governments—with the proceeds going toward the RAC’s administration costs.
Their case is currently before the US Supreme Court on the grounds that this constitutes a taking, and therefore is in violation of the 5th Amendment. I can’t see how it isn’t so. Then again, I thought “public use” was pretty clear too.
I don’t understand why more people don’t get worked up over this stuff. To me this is an outrage. Everyone ought to think it’s an outrage. Is it that there are just too many outrages these days? Too many people think you can’t fight city hall? Do people on the left really agree with this kind of nonsense?
Jan 31, 2013
So we can save the 4th Amendment. Tactics like this, or stop and frisk, became far less attractive when a lot of ordinary citizens are legally carrying firearms. It overwhelms law enforcement with false-positives. But you can bet even if we force carry on them, they will use this anyway to harass the law-abiding, as long as the courts let them get away with it.
Jan 30, 2013
Reading this article, it appears that the Chambersburg, Pennsylvania school district has decided that they have the power to revoke First Amendment rights over an accusation without evidence about a possible Second Amendment issue without the hassle of going through the Sixth Amendment-protected trial. In other words, the Chambersburg school district has basically decided that the entire Bill of Rights doesn’t apply on their publicly-owned property.
Chambersburg Area School District administrators have banned a Chambersburg man from setting foot on district property after he allegedly brought a gun onto campus.
The district held a closed administrative hearing on Friday for Jay Lightfoot, Chambersburg. …
“You are prohibited from setting foot on school property any time in the future and until advised otherwise,” solicitor Jan Sulcove told Lightfoot today in the administration building’s lobby. “If you enter upon school district property, whether it’s this building or any other building, whether it’s for a public meeting or athletic event, you will be prosecuted.”
The accusation is that Lightfoot carried a firearm on campus during an athletic event. However, the school district refuses to provide any real evidence of the accusation. The school officials refuse to name the event, the specific date, or let him challenge the supposed witness with legal representation.
Regardless, administrators have declared in a private meeting that he may not even attend public government meetings held on public property because of this alleged violation that they will not take to trial.
Look, if the guy was violating the law, then file charges. Operate within the legal system. As school officials, they don’t have the power to just declare that someone may no longer participate in government because of the conclusion of a closed door meeting that is not a trial where the accused is not allowed representation to challenge an accusation from an unnamed witness that has no details or serious evidence provided.
If Chambersburg has a civics or government teacher with tenure protections, this would be an awesome teachable moment to use in teaching children about government abuse.
Dec 10, 2012
I have been boycotting the airlines for a number of years. I used to fly once or twice a year prior to this, but currently, unless I am required to for business, I have no plans to ever get on a commercial aircraft again until the gropings and nude-o-scope screening stops. This is a big country to have to drive our way around in, but least my 4th Amendment rights are only bruised up a bit on the highways, instead of being beat to a pulp and crapped on like they are with the TSA.
Volokh points to a position paper by the Consumer Travel Alliance. Personally, I’d rather just get rid of TSA, and go back to airport security being privately run (9/11, after all, was not an airport security failure), but if the powers that be won’t possibly consider that, I’d find most of the CTA positions strong enough that I’d stop boycotting commercial air travel.
Nov 20, 2012
This fight is almost as tiring as gun rights, in that it’s constantly under assault by clueless, power hungry politicians:
Leahy’s rewritten bill would allow more than 22 agencies — including the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Communications Commission — to access Americans’ e-mail, Google Docs files, Facebook wall posts, and Twitter direct messages without a search warrant. It also would give the FBI and Homeland Security more authority, in some circumstances, to gain full access to Internet accounts without notifying either the owner or a judge.
If you want to know why I self-host everything, this is why. You want to look into my electronic affairs? Personal files? E-mail? Bring me a warrant. It’s also why I only use Facebook for platitudes and crap I don’t care if other people know.